Tiger's top spot is up for grabs, says Poulter

By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Ian Poulter believes anyone in the top 10 can topple Tiger Woods as world number one if the American continues to drop ranking points this year.

Woods went into self-imposed golfing exile for five months following revelations of extra-marital affairs and has struggled with his game and fitness since finishing tied fourth on his U.S. Masters comeback at the start of April.

"It's closer now than it ever was because of the points Tiger has dropped," the flamboyant Poulter told reporters on the eve of the PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Americans Phil Mickelson (two), Steve Stricker (four), Jim Furyk (five) and Anthony Kim (10) are jockeying for position with South African Ernie Els (seven), Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (nine) and English trio Poulter (six), Lee Westwood (three) and Paul Casey (eight).


Poulter said he and his two fellow countrymen enjoyed a friendly rivalry.

"I think we all spur each other on and that's healthy," said the winner of February's WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona. "We all want to get as high as we possibly can.

"Lee has played so well over the last couple of years and has got his game back to where it was in 2000 and 2001. His consistency has been incredible."

Poulter has never fared well at the PGA Championship, missing six out of eight cuts before taking a break from the European Tour's flagship event in 2008 and 2009.

He returns this week partly as a result of the extensive changes to the West Course masterminded by local resident Els, especially the alterations made to the putting surfaces.

"The greens used to be bumpy," said Poulter. "You could hit a perfect putt from three feet on the perfect line and it would comfortably miss.

"That was frustrating. That is not what I want to do, I'd rather have a week at home putting on greens where I know if I hit it on the right line from three feet it is going to go in.

"It always used to set me back a few weeks, getting over that. You think you're putting badly but in fact you're not."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)